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Going Beyond the Buzz in 2019-Understanding 'Digital'

By: Chris Pope, Global VP of Innovation, ServiceNow

There are college degrees in computer science and software engineering that feature various different programming languages and methodologies. Looking further, there are technical architecture courses and many extended forms of tuition designed to school us in every aspect of technology you can think of. Yet, despite all these channels of teaching and the many books that have been written to explore our world of technology, we appear to largely fail when it comes to formalising a wider approach to simply ‘teaching digital’.

Understanding digital, the subject, the discipline itself, is a prerequisite if firms are going to actually appreciate where new and emerging technology will have an impact on an organisation.

A responsibility to embrace digital
The consequences of not embracing digital and the process of moving fundamental work operations to new cloud-based, services-driven platforms leads to something of a vicious circle. Firms start to haemorrhage employees who look to move into roles where they will be more productive. And as a consequence, the company is left with a digital skills shortage.

Firms that do embrace digital platforms effectively will, in contrast, start to develop tighter integration and collaboration across initiatives that are being played out across the business. Digital teams start to realise that the fundamental skills, approaches and execution methods they need to learn are the same across different company departments for different use cases.

The harder part of learning digital is understanding how it will change the business in the short, medium and long-term. Firms will need to do that in order to be able to scale new digital work methods organisation-wide.

User eXperience (UX) strategies
The proliferation of digital platform technologies throughout the operational DNA of contemporary organisations has meant that it has become a key element in how User eXperience (UX) strategies are formed.

Forward thinking CxOs now regard digital as a key front-line operational topic, much like they have regarded issues such as cybersecurity since the turn of this decade. The creation of smart spaces and digital workspaces has become more mainstream as a method used to improve employee and customer experience―and will feature prominently in the next evolution of smart cities.

But digital as a discipline comes with some responsibilities. As we now focus on the resurgence of the importance of enterprise data and its quality and quantity, we must also work hard to ensure we reduce technical debt and the presence of legacy platforms that are unfit for current and future purpose.

We must also now engineer our business models to enable continued adoption of commoditised cloud services. Within this area, we need to engineer for digital with enough precision to enable the use of microservices that will deliver discrete chunks of application logic for faster and more intelligent systems.

Positive results come from thinking, doing and working digital. Within a defined timeframe we get to a point where we can deliver on customer and employee experiences, quicker and better—and organisations on this digital journey start to shift from project delivery to product delivery.

No more knee-jerk reactions
The presence of the internet of things (IoT), edge computing layer and all the smart ‘things’ inside any given organisation’s own digital universe starts to coalesce inside a new data analytics fabric. That fabric allows us to be intelligently predictive across all departments, rather than work with the knee-jerk reactive standards of the past.

Digital business allows us to start a new process of reengineering. We start to see a foundational transformation of traditional IT departments that used to be driven by top-down organisational change. Instead, there is a new bottom-up architecture and infrastructure evolution with a focus on pace, agility and people.

Digital business also allows us to welcome the ‘no-collar’ workforce. The rise of smart machines means that many traditional roles can be automated. This means that the organisation of the future may need to rewire talent management for the new workforce and build a culture for increasingly unbounded and virtual teams.

On the road to digital transformation, a new foundation starts to develop around which the business carries out its core functions. Specifically, we’re talking about supply chain and finance―these functions are fundamentally being transformed by the convergence of various technologies. In this regard, a cross-functional approach to transformation can drive the most ambitious results.

The next part of the road ahead will feature increasing amounts of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Blockchain will proliferate and organisations will start to use exponential technologies such as artificial general intelligence and quantum encryption to create even newer commercial systems, many of which will champion connectivity via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).

Going digital and bringing the new world of work online is a challenge worth embracing. To be sure, navigating the forces of digital disruption positively is not always straightforward. Ultimately though, graduating with a qualification from the school of digital is always worthwhile, so make that your new years’ resolution and start your homework today!

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